Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democratic presidential candidates in their first debate of the 2016 campaign generally went easy on each other in terms of personal attacks, saving their toughest words for their Republican counterparts like Donald Trump, who former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley called a "carnival barker."
So it should come as no surprise that almost as soon as the debate was over, the blowback from GOP candidates began – with barbs ranging from calling Clinton's ideas "outdated" to complaints that the other Democrats failed to press the former Secretary of State hard enough on the scandal involving her email server.
I thought it was interesting that they didn't go after her, particularly on the email issue, because, look, there's an FBI investigation. She hasn't been forthcoming.
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the Hillary Clinton email scandal
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has seen his poll numbers rise since his performance in the last GOP presidential debate, told Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning that the debate "looked like something from the 80s."
"It was basically a liberal vs. liberal debate about who was going to give away the most free stuff — free college education, free college education for people illegally in this country, free health care, free everything," said Rubio, who stated on Tuesday that he wasn't even going to watch the debate. "Their answer to every problem in America is a government program and a tax increase. That's all they prescribe, time and time again."
Rubio added, "And this is stuff from the 80s ... [the debate] became exactly what I predicted it would be — a race to the left,"
The biggest gripe that GOP candidates voiced, however, had to do with Sanders' comments about the media coverage of Clinton's use of a personal email server while serving as Secretary of State.
"The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails," Sanders said. "Enough of emails."
"Thank you, Bernie," Clinton replied, as the two shook hands.
The comment was credited by analysts and even some Clinton staffers as a big help to Clinton as the debate shifted in focus toward policy issues and away from Clinton's upcoming testimony to Congress. The Vermont Senator said his comment was only meant to draw attention away from the controversy and toward other matters, particularly an uneven economy tilted in favor of those already at the top.
Whatever the case, Sanders' perceived olive branch was met with disdain from a number of Republicans, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"I thought it was interesting that they didn't go after her, particularly on the email issue, because, look, there's an FBI investigation. She hasn't been forthcoming," Bush said. "It's clear the Russians and Chinese were trying to hack into her server. Information crossing that server was of national security interest, for sure. I would have taken her to task for that, and if she wins the nomination and if I win the nomination, trust me, this is not going to end."
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump – currently tied with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in the latest Fox News poll – also had a few choice words to say about the Democrats while onstage Tuesday night in Las Vegas. In fact, the real estate mogul live-tweeted the entire two hours the debate lasted and "won Twitter during the Democratic debate," according to Time Magazine.
One of the Trump's main complaints dealt with the topic that has become his principal rallying cry this campaign: immigration.
"Notice that illegal immigrants will be given ObamaCare and free college tuition, but nothing has been mentioned about our veterans," Trump tweeted out.
Notice that illegal immigrants will be given ObamaCare and free college tuition but nothing has been mentioned about our VETERANS #DemDebate
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2015
Despite his words on Twitter, the Republican candidate appeared to soften up during an interview early Wednesday morning, praising Clinton's debate performance and adding she "did what she had to do."
"She got through it fine," Trump told ABC News. "It was a very kind debate, very gentle. She came out the winner."
On Sanders' comment about Clinton's "damn emails," Trump said that Sanders should have been more forceful with his Democratic rival and not made the onstage handshake.
"I think that he's losing by quite a bit; he shouldn't have done it," Trump said.